Death in the Valley – Part 3

4 April 2012 in Memories, Reviews, Trails/Hiking, Traveling

 

This morning we moved our wheeled home to Furnace Creek and blocked it up in the Sunset Campground. After another death defying lunch of ramen noodles we were on our way south towards the Badwater Basin which is the lowest point on the continent and if my memory serves me right the lowest in the western hemisphere. I believe it’s 282 ft below sea level. With the sun high in the sky we walked out onto this baking, white alien landscape. A completely flat bed of white lay as far as the eye could see surrounded by mountains on all sides. High above on one of the hillsides was a sign marking sea level.

Since I’m writing this a week after the fact, a week which contained a stretch of debauchery and drunkenness in Vegas don’t quote me on anything here, but I believe the basin is an ancient lake bed and is routinely fed by salt rich water seeping up through the bed. This water drains down through a system of lyme stone aquifers. I could just source this stuff online, but let’s test my memory. What’s left of it.

Making our way back we stopped at the Devil’s Golf Course. Here the ground resembled a lake of mud trodden by giant horses the size of dinosaurs, but upon closer evaluation these clumps of mud are frosted by ridges of salt, hard and sharp like coral. I cannot recall why this change occurs here just a mile or so away from Badwater Basin, but it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Next stop was Artist’s Palette. This was actually more of a drive through than a stop, but situated along the way were several pull offs and short hikes to beautifully colored rocks. Brilliant blues, purples, greens, and pinks died this ancient landscape. We’ve seen lots of red rock, but these colors were straight out of the Crayola chalk box.

With the afternoon washing into evening we returned to home base for dinner. And a little before seven we wandered over to the visitor center auditorium for a Ranger Program. This evening we’d learn about several varieties of pupfish including the Devil’s Hole Pupfish which is currently endangered. This particular pupfish lives in a very unique environment in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Here there is a hole filled with water that leads deep into the earth. This hole connects with a fault line and has no bottom to anyone’s knowledge. In fact there was an earthquake in Mexico recently that caused so much turbulence in the water there that the divers doing a pupfish count had to exit the hole.

Besides learning about these tiny fish and this unique environment we also learned something that made Lindsay particularly excited – there is no age limit for those who wish to participate in the Junior Ranger Program. We have heard about this program practically every time we attended these talks, but had always assumed they were for children. Then the wonderful and lovely Ranger Rose informed us and the rest of the attendees that you’re never too old to partake. She had even had 90 year olds join. So with this news Lindsay promptly picked up an activity book.

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